Save the Children is best known for its work with starving children in Africa or Asia, but this time, the international aid charity is turning its attention to the UK – the world’s sixth richest country.
The charity is launching “It Shouldn’t Happen Here”, its first-ever domestic appeal to help children across the UK have hot meals, adequate shoes, winter clothes and other necessities they cannot afford because their parents have been hit hard by budget cuts and the recession.
The charity is hoping to raise £500,000 - a modest goal compared to its international humanitarian appeals – but its symbolic impact is huge. It shows the failure of the coalition government to tackle mounting poverty and inequality in the UK.
"It is shocking to think that in the UK in 2012, families are being forced to miss out on essentials like food or take on crippling debts just to meet everyday living costs,” says Chris Wellings, Save the Children's UK head of policy. "Poverty in the UK is different to some of the poorer countries in the world. It is more nuanced and poses different problems. But it does not mean that we cannot stand up for children's rights in the UK."
According to a survey of 5,000 UK adults commissioned by Save the Children:
• Nearly two thirds of parents in poverty (61%) say they have cut back on food and over a quarter (26%) say they have skipped meals in the past year.
• One in five parents in poverty says they cannot afford to replace their children's worn-out shoes, while 80% of parents in poverty say they have had to borrow money to pay for food and clothes over the past 12 months.
• Some 44% of families in poverty say that "every week they are short of money", while 29% say they have "nothing left to cut back on".
Not surprisingly, financial worries are taking a toll on parents’ physical and mental well-being, triggering arguments and other signs of family stress, the survey indicates.
Save the Children is calling on the government to stick to its 2020 child poverty targets, to encourage more employers to give the current living wage of £7.20 to £8.30 an hour, provide extra childcare support for low-income parents and allow parents to keep more of their earnings before benefits are withdrawn.
The charity's Shouldn't Happen Here report is the second high-profile study by an international aid charity to focus on domestic poverty in recent months. Oxfam's Perfect Storm, published in June, said that cuts and rising living costs were threatening to return the UK to levels of inequality not seen since Victorian times.